Direct to Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising Pros & Cons

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Direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) is when pharmaceutical companies directly promote their products to consumers usually by way of the media. The only two countries in the world that allow these companies to do this are the United States and New Zealand. In the US, the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) is responsible for the regulation of DTCPA. This began in 1938 and has been amended several times to become more specific. In both 1995 and 2004 the FDA reduced regulations for broadcast and printed media. After these reduced regulations, there was a rapid increase in spending on advertisements by pharmaceutical companies as well.

In class we mainly talked about the downsides of DTCPA, however there are some positive aspects that come along with this type of advertising as well. Some of the the arguments to support DTCPA are that it informs, educates and empowers patients; encourages patients to contact a clinician; promotes patient dialogue with health care providers; reduces underdiagnosis and undertreatment of conditions; reduces the stigma associated with certain diseases; and encourages product competition and lowers prices. These all help the consumers and can lead to a better result for them too. While the arguments that oppose DTCPA include misinforming patients; overemphasizes drug benefits; promotes new drugs before safety profiles are fully known; leads to inappropriate prescribing; and is not rigorously regulated. While you can see that this has both many pros and cons to the argument, most people feel like there is a better solution to the problem and more regulation should be in place.

Some suggestions for fixing the problems with DTCPA are to delay advertising new products so that will give companies a chance to fix any problems before a lot of people are prescribed the drug. Banning product-specific ads has also been suggested in order to keep companies from be biased towards their specific product. There are no regulations for online advertising either, so regulating online advertising could help with the cons of DTCPA. Also, including quantitative information about the drug and the cost information in the advertisements so that patients have more information that they need to make a better decision about using the drug. As you can see, DTCPA may not be all bad but there definitely needs to be some changes in order to make it better for the consumers.

Jacob Fischer


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